A Long Time - Beside Bethesda

A Long Time

“ONE WHO WAS THERE had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time . . .” (John 5:5-6).

A few months from now, I will mark an anniversary that is at once a heartbreaking story of loss and an incomparable testimony of God’s faithfulness. As of July this year, I will have been in a wheelchair for forty-seven years.

Forty-seven years, when compared to the Roman lighthouse at Dover Castle or the pyramids, isn’t much time at all. It’s barely a heartbeat in history, and as nothing compared with eternity. But for a flesh-and-blood, earth-dwelling human being, forty-seven years in a wheelchair is a long time. Trust me on this: 17,155 days of quadriplegia are a great plenty.

Even Jesus thinks so. When He saw the paralyzed man lying on his mat at the pool of Bethesda, and learned that he had been in that condition thirty-eight years, He understood it to be “a long time.”

You have no idea how much I value that phrase in Scripture. “A long time.” The Lord of all, the One who existed eternally before time, who created time but lives outside of it, whose name is Ancient of Days and Everlasting God, that Jesus feels that living without the use of your legs for thirty-eight years—or forty-seven years—is a long time.

When the Savior’s eyes rested on the paralyzed man lying on his worn, weathered straw mat, His heart went out to him. He saw more than a disabled man waiting through the years for healing, without any real hope. He took time to learn that poor soul’s story. We can imagine Him whispering the words to Himself, “Thirty-eight years,” and feeling the weight of those years in Himself.

In our Lord’s humanity, thirty-eight years was more than His whole earthly life span. He understands time not only as something He created but also in an experiential, human way as well. As the book of Hebrews reminds us, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality” (Hebrews 4:15, MSG).

The God who is above time, beyond time, and outside of time chose to enter time, proving that He fully understands our experience of it. He knows how it feels to us when prayers seem to go unanswered . . . when pain or illness lingers . . . when days pass with no word from a loved one . . . when the pregnancy test keeps coming up negative . . . when we’re stuck in a dreary, going-nowhere place in life. If it feels like “a long time” to us, we can count on it feeling that way to Him, too. It may be difficult for us to wait, but He waits with us, offering His own presence and companionship to see us through.


Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Hebrews 4:14-16, MSG

From where you sit today, what things in your life seem to be taking “a long time”? Ask the Lord to kneel with you as He knelt with the man at the pool of Bethesda, to feel your frustration and fading hope, and to sustain you with His perspective, gift you with His incomparable peace, and empower you with His patience, so much richer and deeper than your own.

From the Book:

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Beside Bethesda
By Joni Eareckson Tada

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